Newly-opened records reveal how Jersey battled epidemics 100 years ago

New records opened to the public for the first time by the Jersey Archive reveal how the island coped with epidemics a century ago, with surprising parallels to the current pandemic.

The General Hospital’s Admissions Register from 1920, which was closed to the public until 1 January 2021, details how epidemics were treated and the impact it had on families.

In January and February 1920, over 1,000 people in Jersey, out of a population of 50,000, succumbed to measles, with 25 deaths.

Other epidemics treated in the General Hospital were tuberculosis, typhoid, diphtheria, scarlet fever and influenza.

The hospital also acted as a poor house and a place for children to be cared for. Credit: ITV Channel TV

As well as being a place for treatment, the hospital also acted as a poor house and a place for children to be cared for if they could not be looked after at home, possibly while a parent was in hospital.

In a striking parallel to 2020, 18 schools in St Helier and 17 other schools across the island were closed in1920 for several months of the year.

The General Hospital’s Admissions Register along with the Medical Officer of Health Report also show the States carried out a disinfection program in schools and private homes.

These sorts of diseases that at the time were quite prevalent- you maybe had 30, 40 cases a year- you just don't see them in Jersey now. So I suppose for us, in our current situation, there's hopefully a message of hope there that we can go forward, these diseases can be vaccinated and hopefully in a hundred years time, somebody will be looking back at coronavirus as something from the past.

Linda Romeril, Archives Director of Jersey Archive

The register is one of 400 newly-opened documents which have been stored at Jersey Archive but closed to public access under Freedom of Information exemptions for up to 100 years.

Other records include the St Helier Honorary Police Arrests Register for 1918-1920, records of admissions to HM Prison during the Occupation period, and Inquest notes from 1943-1945.

Although the Jersey Archive remains closed to the public, the documents are available online.

A free online talk about the newly-opened records will be held on 20th January at 7.30pm.